Showing posts from 2015

End of summer 2015

The summer of 2015 is drawing to a close for me. I had a very productive software development co-op with MAG Automotive, and I will probably return there in a permanent capacity after I graduate with my bachelor's degree at the end of this year. I will be taking the following courses this fall semester:

Game Design (have to fill technical electives somehow)Network System AdminIntroduction to Computer SecuritySenior Project Not sure how this schedule will impact +Joseph Kielasa and I eating lunch together, carpooling or going to the gym, but we'll work something out.

I still don't have the results of my degree audit, but I will be visiting the head of the department tomorrow to find out what's going on. I will likely also take care of re-imaging my school laptop at the same time. We're not going to Windows 10 yet at LTU, unfortunately, but I can understand they need time to test everything and make sure it works before deploying it. If I wanted to run it myself, mayb…

Meet Zorro!

A couple days ago, my mom and my brother went and adopted a new playmate for Shimmer from the Michigan Humane Society. He is a 10 week-old male black kitten, whom we have decided to name Zorro.
Zorro is currently being confined with almost constant watching in either the bathroom or my brother's bedroom, since he is still getting acquainted with our house and he is still recovering from the neutering surgery he underwent shortly before we adopted him. Also, introductions with any other cats already in the house need to be done slowly, so he will not be able to directly see Shimmer for another week or so. They do get to sniff each other under the doors, however.

Of course, Shimmer is still getting lots of love and attention during all of this. After all, we adopted Zorro to give her a playmate closer to her own size.

Learning VBA for getting Excel work done fast

I've been recently picking up another programming language: Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), specifically for working with Microsoft Excel.

I'm not going to be coding any hobby projects in VBA any time soon, but it is useful for a few specific things. Basically, VBA is good for automating things within Excel, so if you find yourself needing to do anything within it, VBA could give you some extra power if you already have a programming background.

My first taste with VBA came from my current employer, where it is used often in their spreadsheets. VBA can be used to used to script normal user actions, which is the kind of coding I first encountered, but this can often be slow if working with large amounts of data, or doing some external file I/O. Using my more conventional programming tactics, I produced some very large gains in macro execution speeds. I'm now getting requests from co-workers to speed up some more VBA code they have, so I'm feeling pretty good about …

Why fans are angry about Metroid Prime: Federation Force

The above YouTube video is the 2015 Nintendo E3 trailer for a new Metroid title coming to the Nintendo 3DS handheld sometime next year: Metroid Prime: Federation Force. If you haven't seen it yet, go ahead and view it now.

Are you a Metroid fan? If so, what are you likely feeling right now? I know what I was feeling right after this: mostly shock, disbelief, and disappointment. Apparently, I'm not alone: at the time of this writing, the video has roughly 6,000 likes, and about 58,000 dislikes. That's a 91% disapproval rate amongst everyone who felt like rating the video.

Clearly, there is a problem. And like any major problem, it is worth investigating to see why it exists (especially since I consider myself a fan of the franchise).
What is the game about? This is what I know about the game at this point in time, based on the above trailer. That being said, anything could change as the game continues along the development process up until its release sometime in 2016.

How to Make a Squircle in SVG

It seems squircles are pretty popular nowadays. Both iOS and Ubuntu make use of this shape, which also appeared in some other places. If you don't feel like following my Wikipedia link, a squircle is defined geometrically by the equation x4+y4=r4. And if you don't feel like parsing that, it's basically a cross between a circle and a square, hence the name "squircle".

Rounded rectangles are NOT squircles. Rather, a squircle's "corners" are not mere circular arcs, and the edges are more rounded.

Rounded rectangle (left) vs. squircle (right).
My personal website was recently updated to replace the rounded rectangle shape it used for buttons with a squircle shape instead, and it looks much better for it IMO. But the challenge for me was trying to define this shape in SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics), so I can get a nice squircle which can tweaked and scaled to my heart's content. Sadly, a Google search did not turn up anything particularly useful, so I …

GNOME Boxes on Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS: completely useless

I need to set up a server to implement and test the server-side stuff for my Web Server Programming class project site, so I figured I'd try out Ubuntu Server 14.04.2 LTS in a virtual machine.

Usually whenever I set up virtual machines, I do so using VirtualBox. However, since I am running the GNOME desktop environment on my desktop computer, I figured I would try out the GNOME Boxes software to set up my virtual machine. I downloaded it from the Ubuntu Software Center, and started it up. So far, so good.

I then pointed it to my downloaded .iso image (MD5SUM hash verified beforehand, as always), and started it up. The installation screen came up asking for my language, then I hit Enter for the installation option. At this point, Boxes apparently freaked out, backing out all the way to the main screen and just showing me a blank rectangle.

I quit Boxes, and ran it again from a terminal using
gnome-boxes >> boxes_errors.txt 2>&1 This time, I got several errors in the fi…

New keyboard!

Fed up with the spacebar not always working right on my old flexible keyboard, I sought out a replacement. I recently got a Logitech T620 Touch Mouse for my Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS desktop computer, and that has been working great for me. What's more, it is a wireless mouse with a Unifying receiver, which allows multiple Logitech devices to be connected to the computer using the same wireless dongle, occupying only a single USB port. Thus, it only made sense to me to trim off another cable from behind my desk and get a new Unifying keyboard.

As I was researching Unifying compatibility with Linux, I stumbled upon the Logitech K750 Wireless Solar Keyboard. As +Joseph Kielasa can testify, I have recently taken an interest in solar power. A wireless keyboard which doesn't need batteries? Sounds good to me!

I ordered my new keyboard directly from Logitech and received it yesterday. I installed the Solaar software for managing Unifying devices on Linux from a PPA, and was able to get…

Busy week up ahead

I'm going to have a very busy upcoming week, now that the Spring 2015 semester at Lawrence Technological University is coming to a close. Below is a list of some of the things I need to get done over the next few days:

Final draft of my Leadership PortfolioFinish the implementation of my Web Server Programming class' web application project (particularly the server side)Web Server Programming research paper on a topic relating to mobile web application developmentContinued testing of software for my LTU/Ford internshipClass registration for Fall 2015 (and possibly Summer 2015, maybe for taking care of a couple required humanities electives) Not to mention that this upcoming weekend I'll be joining in the birthday celebrations for both my mom and my cousin.

I figure that if I can devote one or two days to completing each major project, and get at least one software component tested each day for my LTU/Ford internship, I should be able to manage getting everything done on tim…

Birthday 2015

My birthday came up again this past week. It was a quiet affair; my mom put up some decorations, my parents got me a cake, and aside from my younger brother, nobody else really came by this weekend. My actual birthday was even more unremarkable, given how much stuff I had to take care off.

I did get a few neat things, though. One of them is a party game called The T-Shirt Game, which we got for my cousin for her birthday a couple years back and can be hilarious at times. The other thing I really wanted and received was a 5000 mAh power bank for my Nexus 4, whose battery is probably starting to feel the effects of old age. It takes forever to charge up, but I guess that can be expected. I have yet to actually test it out in the field though. I got a couple other things too, but nothing terribly noteworthy.

One item I didn't get was a wireless touch mouse I spied at Micro Center, since they apparently ran out the day my parents went shopping there. I will probably visit them again i…

Shimmer's vomiting has gotten worse

Shimmer's vomiting problem has gotten much worse. I woke up at 5:45 AM on March 24 to hear her puking all over the floor of my room. I got my mom up to help just as Shimmer ambled down the hall to the kitchen, puking every few feet. My mom cleaned up everything she left behind while I supervised Shimmer in the kitchen, trying to keep her out of our family room where it's carpeted. Her vomit changed in color gradually from yellowish brown to whitish/clear to pink. She also used the litter box to defecate, but it was coming out all loose. She became weaker, fighting less against me keeping her restrained and eventually slumping onto the floor. I kept her covered with a towel for warmth while my mom called up an emergency vet. It's hard to watch your cat cry on the floor in between heaves.

We took her later that morning over to the emergency veterinarian clinic, where they decided to keep her overnight on activated charcoal, an anti-nausea injection, and an IV for fluids. Her…

Responsive web design: my site on mobile is no longer for ants!

I had a chance to get some tips on responsive web design, so hopefully my personal website won't look so ridiculously tiny and inconsistent on mobile anymore. Here is a screenshot of how it looks on my Nexus 4 under Google Chrome now. Much better!

I'm not done with the partial redesign, however. I still want to change the design of sections' back buttons and do away with the two-column design of the project pages. But this shows I am making real progress on making my site mobile-friendly. Once those changes are done, I'll go back into pursuing fancier additions.

I took a break lasting a couple weeks away from my site so I could do some other non-computer related things for a change, but I think I'm rested up now and ready to keep at it. Besides, it seems recruiters have started contacting me based on my work, so I must be doing something right. ;)

Shimmer on meds, refusing to eat

Our cat Shimmer hasn't been doing so well lately. She's still having issues with chronic vomiting, which is apparently a tricky problem to diagnose in cats. Once she started barfing up half of her meals in one day immediately after eating, we decided to take her in again.
Poor kitty.
The vet took an X-ray, and besides some constipation, saw nothing wrong. She is now on three new medications: FortiFlora, Panacur, and Metrodinazole. The Panacur, which is a white liquid to be given orally, is the hardest to administer, since she immediately yanks her head back upon tasting it and sometimes sprays it around. In addition, she's supposed to be receiving a new hypoallergenic food from the vet soon, whenever they receive the shipment, to rule out food allergies as a cause.
The most troubling issue is that shortly after starting her new "GI cocktail regimen", she has started refusing food, even after she asks for it. She never eats any more than 1/2 of what she is given, o…

Fun Run 2: Tips, Tricks and Strategies

A game I've been playing lately on my Android phone is Fun Run 2 by Dirtybit. If you're not familiar with it, it's an online platformer/racing game where you race a customizable animal against up to three other players towards the finish line.

You gain more coins and rating by winning races, so how can you stay ahead of the pack? There aren't many strategy guides available online for this popular game, at least not many which tell you anything you couldn't find for yourself off of the official Fun Run 2 FAQ. After playing the game for some time, I can offer the following gameplay tips:
General Jump only when necessary Each time you jump, you lose a small amount of speed, not to mention you need a split second to accelerate back up to top speed. The fewer times you jump, the higher your average speed will be, and the easier it will be for you to maintain your position.
Jump ahead of small ledges Anytime you run into a wall, you'll stop completely and lose all th…

Time for categories!

I rearranged my personal website yet again; now everything is laid out nice and neat in collapsible categories!

It's something you kind of have to see for yourself to really appreciate, since it's also all animated. You can either visit my personal website using anything other than Internet Explorer, or simply view a video demonstration here.

A couple other minor changes I made:

Some stuff was added to help my site pass HTML5 validation.I removed the little profile indicators in the top-right corner; they now exist as buttons in the "Profiles" category.

Why won't you take my money?

I've been a bit disappointed not once, but twice over the past couple of days. Both because my credit card was not an acceptable method of payment for a couple tech things I wanted in advance of my upcoming birthday.

First, I saw the new wireless Ubuntu mouse from Canonical's online store. I already have the older wired Ubuntu mouse, but the left mouse button has been a bit weird at times lately, registering extra clicks upon release. Also, I like the idea of financially supporting an open source operating system I'm heavily dependent on (not to mention the parent distribution of elementary OS) and a fan of for almost six years now.

However, the payment page informs me that they can only accept "WorldPay" and PayPal as valid forms of payment at this time. I've used my credit card to make purchases from their site before, so I was unpleasantly surprised that I couldn't throw more money at them for neat stuff. I had to back out of the purchase.

A little lat…

Trying out Android Actionable Notifications on Pebble firmware v2.9

I recently got the v2.9 firmware update for my Pebble smartwatch (and v2.3.0 Pebble Android app update), which includes support for Android Actionable Notifications. Basically, when notifications appear on your Android smartphone, they also appear on the Pebble, which gives you options for dealing with them. Most prominently, they allow you to send canned responses or emoji to SMS text messages without having to pull out your smartphone. Handy!

I've only been using the update for a couple days, but already it's made my interactions with my Pebble much more powerful and convenient. One of the things I like most about it is how I can also dismiss some notifications without having to unlock my phone first. To me, that's really useful when I want to be alerted to something but don't need to be reminded of it again later, letting me clear it right away.

On the downside, you can only set up five canned SMS replies in the Pebble app, each restricted to a maximum of 30 charact…

Random links added to my website

I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner. On my personal website, I just added a new "Links" section. It's simply a list of links to random things elsewhere I find interesting. Basically, I'm sharing some of my bookmarks with you for your own curiosity. You're welcome!

I just whipped up a quick unordered list, though I did try to alphabetize its entries by hand. Maybe later I'll change it to some nice grid-like layout, similar to the main page.

gdipp Chocolatey packages created

I have created a pair of Chocolatey packages (still awaiting moderation at the time of this writing) for gdipp, which gives better font smoothing in Windows. If you use Windows but prefer the way text is rendered in Linux and Mac OS X, then this software is for you. You can see a before-and-after comparison screenshot at this article.

The packages are for gdipp 0.7.6 and gdipp 0.9.1 beta, whichever you prefer,  and can be installed with

choco install gdipp -Version 0.7.6


choco install gdipp-beta -Version 0.9.1


Chocolatey rules! It's a good thing Windows 10 will include it as part of its package manager, which the OS really needs.

Setting up my custom domain with GitHub Pages and Google Domains

Today I finally got my custom domain,, set up! This is a major milestone for my personal website. A complete noob like me didn't quite understand how to get the custom domain applied correctly at first (turns out "web forwarding" just wasn't what I wanted), but with a little bit of digging and perseverance, I eventually got it all straightened out.

I also have a subdomain,, which goes straight to this blog.

This post is dedicated to my classmate +Cameron Beyer , who gave me the Google Domains invite in the first place.
How To Set It Up For Your Own Site I had to look in a couple different places to get this working properly. However, it now appears to be working, so I might as well share how to do this easily. Keep in mind that these instructions are for setting up a personal website with Google Domains and GitHub Pages; I'm sure there are easier ways to get a website up and running if you don't feel li…

Happy Caturday with Shimmer!

There's a hashtag on Google+ called #caturday, so here's my contribution to it. It's just Shimmer sleeping on my mom's chair at the kitchen table, but it's so cute! Just look at how she curls up in a fluffy ball and covers her face with her paw!

Edited briefly in OpenShot. I have no idea why there's a video hiccup around the 9-second mark, but oh well.

New hardware (for me!)

Today I got a couple new things specifically for me.
Mouthguard Towards the end of last year, I went in to the dentist for a cleaning appointment, and they found I had chipped a couple of my front teeth yet again. Since this seems to be a recurring issue I don't take notice of, they told me it is probably nighttime grinding and they gave me a mouthguard I'm supposed to put in at night before going to bed.
It was just fitted earlier this morning. It felt comfortable in the dentist's office, but I haven't actually slept wearing it yet. So, we'll see how I'm feeling tomorrow morning as a test run. Glasses I also got a new pair of glasses, since my vision has apparently changed enough over the last couple of optometrist's appointments to warrant a new prescription. I'm nearsighted, so every once in a while I need to be checked to see if I need new lenses, which usually needs a new frame too.

On a side note, I don't wear contacts; I consider my glasses a…

First day of Spring 2015 classes

Yesterday was my first day of classes back at LTU for the Spring 2015 semester.

I first woke up to my cat Shimmer trying to rip up the top of my office chair in my bedroom, which I guess was her asking for something from me. I was too tired though, so I went back to sleep. (I had no idea what time it was.) I finally woke up for my 11:00 AM alarm on my phone, and saw Shimmer sleeping curled up at the foot of my bed. I got up to turn it off, then I came back to give her a nice belly rub. Much purring and licking ensued.

I then got showered up, and came out for some pasta my dad made for our family dinner. After that, I helped shovel out the driveway, and prepared my textbook list / Google Drive file structure / Gmail filters and labels. I left for school around 4:30 PM.

I arrived at LTU around 5:30 PM, and quickly got my textbooks handled at the school bookstore. The bill for this semester wasn't too bad. I even managed to get a refund on a rental textbook I forgot to return last ye…

Bioinformatics demos, Personal Projects split, and time-changing background: ideas

Since I added a Bug Fixes section to my personal website recently, I already started thinking about what else I might add to my site.
Demos of my bioinformatics tools One thing I've been wondering about is adding some of my bioinformatics software code from my Fall 2014 Intro to Bioinformatics class to my website.

Since my website is currently hosted using GitHub Pages, I can't really do anything on the server side. This basically prevents me from just modifying my Python code a bit to use a web interface. Instead, I might just port it to JavaScript (which was a language my professor for that class suggested as an option for writing our assignments in). That will take some time if I go that route, but it could be worthwhile. Imagine having live demos of the code I wrote, instantly accessible through a Web browser! That would be pretty nifty.
Personal Projects split Another idea I've had for a possible improvement is further splitting my Personal Projects section into some …

New website section: Bug Fixes

I just added a new section to my personal website titled "Bug Fixes". This displays links to all of my contributions thus far to others' open-source software projects.

There's not much in there so far (just some documentation fixes I made for and a couple things I fixed in Ubuntu during the Precise Pangolin development cycle). Hopefully, this list will expand, which will improve my bragging rights considerably. Fixes I've made in projects where I am a primary developer are not included here.